Juventus v Celtic: Antonio Conte won’t rest stars

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JUVENTUS coach Antonio Conte is perhaps the only man in Italy who does not believe his side are as good as through their Champions League last-16 tie against Celtic.

The Serie A leaders are 3-0 up from the first leg in Glasgow and odds-on to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 2006. Many in Italy believe Conte should leave Stephan Lichtsteiner, Claudio Marchisio and Artur Vidal, who are all within one yellow card of a ban, out of tonight’s second-leg in Turin. However, the Juve boss insists the tie is not yet over.

He said: “I hear people saying this could be a good game for us to rotate the team but, if I play somebody, it’s because they give me guarantees they can play. We have three players one booking away from a suspension, but they will still be at risk of suspension after this round too. Maybe some will play, maybe others will rest. We’ll decide based on the players we have available, calculating also the knocks we have, which we have to look at today.

“Nobody wants to minimise the importance of this game. In fact, qualification is obtained over 180 minutes. We’ve only played 90 and we have another 90, plus maybe extra-time and penalties, against a strong, proud team who will want to make amends for first leg. We definitely won’t under-estimate this game. It’s going to be a test for everybody, starting with me, then the players and the club.

“Certainly the first leg has given us a seriously good chance of reaching the next round but in football there are always surprises if you don’t play with the right determination and concentration. Celtic are a very physical side and can create lots of problems from set-pieces. We’ve got to be fully focused.”

Defender Andrea Barzagli, 31, stressed how keen he is to feature against Celtic. He said: “The coach decides but I’m a footballer and always want to play. Even if I play 60 games in a year, bring them on, it means I’m in good shape so I’m happy. For a defender, continuity is important and I’m part of a very strong defence, doing well for a year and a half. We’re happy with what we’ve done, but we won’t settle for that.

“Organisation is fundamental to our defence and we work a lot on it. This year, we’ve changed the back three often, yet we have shown solidity.

“It also helps to have the great hand from our midfielders and attackers and, if we’ve got where we are, it’s because we have a compact team in which we all help each other out.”